T20 Blast Preview: Northants Steelbacks v Birmingham Bears

T20 Blast Preview: Northants Steelbacks v Birmingham Bears

Holders meet 2013 winners at Wantage Road on Friday night looking for back-to-back victories

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Rikki Clarke continues to impress in the twilight of his career. Pic: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe

The past two winners of the domestic t20 competition meet at Wantage Road on Friday night as reigning Champions Birmingham Bears travel to the Northants Steelbacks, the 2013 Champions, with both sides having had mixed starts to the campaign.

Northants will hope to bounce back from an opening night defeat at Durham, where an indifferent bowling display was followed by a poor effort with the bat in deteriorating light.

Captain Alex Wakely admitted his side were underprepared for that game, but having had a week off from Championship duty the same excuse cannot be used this week, and his side will be expected to put in a performance, with on paper at least, a batting line-up to rival any in the country.

The visitors have not had the luxury of a week to prepare having been involved in bruising and dramatic Championship victory at Sussex.

The reigning champions have won one and lost one so far, having batted first and posted totals 141-7 and 144-5 against Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire respectively.

Alex Hales’ six consecutive sixes meant the former was made to look paltry, but the latter was defended at Edgbaston in the West Midlands derby. Varun Chopra will be eager for his side to post bigger scores if they are to challenge for the quarter finals once again.

Key Men

Muhammed Azharullah was surprisingly left out of Northants’ opener at Durham and the bowling attack struggled in his absence. The Pakistani-born seamer was a key part of Northants’ success in 2013 and has been in good form in the Championship this year.

Rikki Clarke’s spell of 4-0-8-1 was key in restricting Northants to a well below par total as the two sides met at Edgbaston last year, and the veteran seamer will once again be key with a new ball, as the Bears look to made early inroads into Northants’ deep batting line-up.

Team News

Northamptonshire welcome back Muhammed Azharullah back into the 12 man squad in addition to the 11 that played at Durham, the bowler likely to replace Olly Stone in the Steelbacks line-up. Shahid Afridi has been in Pakistan captaining his national side’s t20 lineup but has returned in time to make his home debut.

Northants squad: Alex Wakely (c), Shahid Afridi, Muhammed Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Adam Rossington (wk), Olly Stone, Graeme White, David Willey.

Birmingham will be without Chris Wright after he was hit on the chin whilst batting during Warwickshire’s Championship match at Sussex this week, with Oliver Hannon-Dalby likely to take his spot, whilst Josh Poysden and Jonathon Webb are also added to the side who beat Worcestershire.

Warwickshire squad: Varun Chopra (c), Tim Ambrose (w), Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Tom Lewis, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathon Webb.

Weather and conditions

Rain is forecast during the day on Friday but it is forecast to clear up in the afternoon so should allow for a prompt start and a full game. Northants’ Championship pitches have generally been flat and that trend is likely to continue into the shortest format.

Date: Friday 29th May 2015

Time: 18:30pm

Ground: Wantage Road, Northampton.

Umpires: Russell Evans, Martin Saggers.

Odds (via SkyBet): Northants evens, Birmingham 4/5

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